Sleep and Wellness

Why Do We Yawn? The Surprising Meaning Behind Our Yawns

Have you ever experienced excessive yawning? There’s been a lot of talks, research, and debate about yawning. Why do we yawn in the first place anyway?

A girl yawning

It can be observed that people yawn both when they wake from a good night’s slumber and when they’re tired. But we also yawn when we’re worried, or bored, or hungry, or just when we’re about to start doing something. In case you haven’t noticed yawning is also contagious. Once you see someone about to do it, you’re well on your way to yawning, too.

Why Do We Yawn?

Science tells us that there are several triggers. As a matter of fact, both police officers and skydivers yawn just when they’re about to dive right into their duties. If you’re truly engaged in this article, it’s also possible that you could be yawning now.

Earlier discoveries tell us there aren’t definite answers as to why we actually do it. There isn’t a physiological effect to yawning, too, those studies say. But recently, studies say that yawning is a strategy for the body to take in a good amount of air to further increase oxygen levels. In other words, yawning can be a response to deprivation of carbon dioxide. Still, this particular hypothesis oxygenation was let go after being proved wrong by a series of evaluations.

A theory that continues to revolve today is that it’s a cooling mechanism. Experts are looking at yawning is an agency that advances wither alertness or arousal. Furthermore, yawning is made of deep air inhalation partnered with aggressive jaw-stretching and then followed by an expulsion of the air before the jaw closes.

These patterns of behavior, on a collective level, aid blood flow in reaching the skull. This activity, in turn, presents several effects such as cerebral cooling. That said, brain temperate has a lot to do with it.  When one’s body is warmer, it’s normal for one to feel sleepy and tired. On that note, evening yawns could be triggered to oppose sleep in an attempt to bring about some extent of alertness or arousal.

A cute baby yawning

All of these mentioned it’s safe to say that yawning is contagious. One person’s yawn can trigger induced yawning among an entire team. Individuals who are said to carry more empathy towards others are more easily influenced to yawn. Further research has shown that human yawns trigger brain areas that handle social engagement. if you have a dog, you’re even likely to testify that dogs, too, can yawn once they see you do it first. Contagious yawning has also been observed among many animals, as well.

In all of this, the transference of yawning potentially serves to advance coordinated arousal within team members near each other. What does is synchronize the group’s mental state.

What We’re Telling Others When We Yawn?

Neuroscience expert Andrew Gallup says that the brain cooling theory, which is his study, by the way, is the only study that thoroughly tackles comprehensible results. Still,other experts aren’t fully sold. Adrian Guggisberg, a University physician and expert, says that he agrees with Gallup to some extent—specifically, that room temperature changes can provoke yawning. But he’s unsure of the brain cooling theory. To his advantage, he presents a substitute reasoning of the subject matter.

His take is that precisely because yawning is restrained in rooms and moments with the high temperature already says that it fails exactly when we need it. He goes on to note that there are multiple other ways to manage and balance body temperature; sweating is one of them. That said he believes that it is unclear why the need to subvert to another regulator exists when it fails precisely when it matters.

All these put together,  yawn specialists have been split into two opposing sides. Team Gallup believes that yawning is a communication strategy that presents noticeable social benefits. Guggisberg, on the other hand, resorts to the social theory related to yawning. He believes that the physiological aftermaths of yawning are too trivial. Still, he acknowledges that yawning is contagious and that it is a clue.

Why Is Yawning Contagious?

As previously mentioned, contagious yawning is a real thing. This may also be referred to as the “echo phenomenon.” Put simply, this is an immediate imitation of another person’s behavior without awareness.  Furthermore, it’s noteworthy to add that yawning isn’t exclusive to humans alone. Other living beings such as chimpanzees and dogs also exhibit the phenomenon. But its transmittal, as mentioned, isn’t completely defined just yet.

In a certain experiment, the volunteers were told to try to repress their yawns when in the presence of other people yawning. Right after, the volunteers are told to do the opposite. In yet another experiment, the volunteers were told the same instructions, but this time, the searchers now included electrical currents to the scalps of the participants. These currents were included to gauge how the motor cortex—which is believed to control yawning—would respond. During the series of experiments, the volunteers were then told to recount their urge to yawn.

The researchers found that the volunteers did not succeed in totality in their resistance to yawning. A few “full yawns” were noted, but the count of repressed yawns grew in number so much so when the participants were asked to repress their yawns.

The discussion on the power and science behind yawning continues to this day, and it remains to be a fun topic to hurdle over for many science enthusiasts. What’s your take on yawning?

Sleep and Wellness

Why Do We Dream? What We Know So Far

Dreaming is not an alien concept to us. We have all experienced this, even if it doesn’t stick to our memory. We may woken up crying, screaming and sometimes angry because of our dreams. Our dreams may have even attached itself to our memory, amusing us till it slowly fades away. Though the concept of dreaming is so common, not a lot is known about this phenomenon. So why do we dream? Here’s all that we know so far. 

woman lying on flowers and dreaming

What are dreams?

Dreams are basically stories that our mind makes up while we sleep. It is a virtual world, created by the mind in the absence of sensory input. It can occur at any time during the night but most often, it occurs during the REM phase of our sleep.

What is REM Sleep?

REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, is the most important stage of our sleep cycle. It occurs roughly 3-5 times at night and is the stage where our brain is most active. The activity during REM sleep can be well seen in the flutter of the eyes. This stage is critical to our functioning as it is during this stage that processes like learning and memory formation occurs. REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep. This critical sleep phase is also called ‘dream sleep’.

So, why do we dream?

There are so many theories of why we sleep but we don’t know for sure. Some experts say that dreams and nightmares have no meaning, that it is a bunch of nonsensical thoughts grouped together to form a story that makes no sense. Others say it is the way our brain processes information, events and important relationships in our lives. With no definitive proof of what part dreams play in our physical and mental health, we cannot make declarations of the same.

Here are some theories about dreaming that you might find interesting:

It helps us create memories

While there is concrete evidence that sleep is an integral element in creating memories, some researchers believe that dreams are also a part of this process. This theory suggests that because memory fragments can be found in both REM and NREM sleep, there has to be a link between dreams and the creation of memories. However, since memory fragments can be found in awakened states, there is no clear link here. The biggest obstacle to establishing this theory is that it is impossible to find people who never dream. Without evidence collected from such individuals, it can be hard to make any scientific proclamations.

Dreams are creative outlets

Often, waking up with a dream stuck in our minds can leave us amused about the creativity of our brains. Even if we experienced a nightmare the night before, once awake, the dream can seem trivial and fascinating. We might leave our vivid dreams to flutter away into the haze but artists often find their inspiration from dreams. Be it nightmares or illogical fragments, artists have found their muses in their dreams. For example, Hieronymus Bosch and Henry Fuseli’s work can be attributed to dreams.

Dreams as emotional processors

While there might be so many emotions going through our daily lives, we might not have the time or ability to process these emotions well. Some researchers attribute dreams of helping us process emotions that have been left unfinished during the day. Freud said that dreams represent the desires in our subconscious mind. However, there has been no concrete evidence to prove this.

What About Nightmares?

Nightmares are merely dreams that tend to scare us. These nightmares can be caused by stress, emotional difficulties or unhappiness in our lives. Persistent nightmares can be classified as a sleeping disorder, especially if they continue to disrupt your sleep and you get frightened to sleep.

What Do Your Dreams Mean?

While experts have not been able to give a concrete idea about the meaning of dreams, there are tons of interpreters and analysts who suggest that dreams have meaning. These interpreters take the common dreams people tend to have and assigned meanings to them. For example, a dream of falling is a pretty common one. Interpreters say these dreams mean that there is an aspect of your life that isn’t going well. Dreams of being naked in public are said to mean that you are afraid of showing your faults. However, these explanations are vague and have no concrete standing.

Lucid Dreaming

A lot of people have experimented with their dreams, consciously. This is called Lucid Dreaming. Lucid dreams occur when the person has realized that they are dreaming and have taken control of the narrative. It is the process of knowing that one is dreaming and begins to influence it. While when these dreams occur or how much control one has varies from people to people, many people clearly remember experiencing this type of phenomenon. There are many benefits of being able to dream lucidly. It can help overcome phobias, persistent nightmares and even serve as a source of entertainment. While more researchers are spending time on the study of dreams, lucid dreaming and unlocking the mysteries of the mind at night, there has yet not been any concrete proclamations from the scientific community.

There are many unanswered questions of why we dream, what it means, can you control it, can you avoid it. The mystery behind dreams can often lead us to believe they are warnings or they are a gateway into the future. However, it is imperative to know that the brain is a powerful element and we are yet to fully understand the abilities it possesses.